2014-2015 College Track Annual Report - Page 17

“ Ms. Castro, you’re the first Latina teacher I’ve ever had!” The students around me nodded their heads in agreement. University of California, Berkeley and became the first in my family to earn a college degree. While I was proud of my accomplishment, I was struck by the realization that I could only name three other students from my eighth-grade class who “made it out” of our neighborhood and graduated from college. Two of us were College Track students. At the time, I was teaching fifth graders at one of Oakland’s public elementary schools serving predominantly low-income students of color. I was also in the minority as an educator of color at my school, and the comment impacted me; I, too, had never had a teacher who shared my racial identity. The pressure of my role as her teacher, and for all of my students, rested on my shoulders every day, because I was staring back at my 10-yearold self. This was not the first, nor would it be the last time I was puzzled, even angered, by the state of the education system and the lack of opportunity for all students from communities like mine. This blatant inequity was visible in my middle school and high school experience, and became even more apparent during my time in college. I observed very few students like me: firstgeneration, students of color. I couldn’t help but to ask, “Why aren’t more students like me, from my community of East Palo Alto here with me at UC Berkeley? Why doesn’t every student have the opportunities College Track offered?” Like many of my students, my family immigrated to this country from Mexico in search of opportunity. In the community where I grew up, there were no examples of what it meant to earn a college degree—the opportunities it brought, the chance at the American dream, and most importantly, how I’d get there. In 2013, with the help of a full scholarship, I graduated from the The answers have continued to evolve as I have progressed through my career, but what is clear is something I learned from College Track and the mentors I call family: the value of community service and the responsibility we all have to pay it forward. As a result, I made the decision to join AmeriCorps where I became a mentor to high school students who wanted to collegetrack.org Page 17